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Unpopular Culture: The Ritual of Complaint in a British Bank

by John R Weeks University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 176 pages
AU$63.00 NZ$65.22
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When you start a new job, you learn how things are done in the company, and you learn the many ways they are complained about too. Unpopular Culture considers why people complain about their work culture and what impact those complaints have on their organizations.

Weeks based his study on long-term observations made at the British Armstrong Bank in the United Kingdom. Not one person at this organization, he found, from the CEO down to the junior clerks, had anything good to say about its corporate culture. And yet, despite all the griping--and despite much superficial change--the way things were done never seemed to alter. As Weeks demonstrates, this is because the everyday standards of behavior that regulate complaints curtail their effectiveness. Embarrass someone by complaining in a way that is too public or too pointed, and you will find your social standing diminished. Complain too loudly or too long, and your coworkers might see you as contrary. On the other hand, complain too little and you may be seen as too stiff or just too strange to be trusted. The rituals of complaint, Weeks shows, have powerful social functions.

With its highly original approach toward understanding business life and corporate culture, Unpopular Culture will interest anthropologists, sociologists, and students of organizational behavior.

Acknowledgments1. Unpopular Culture2. An Illustration3. Organizational Culture4. Modes and Forms5. Counter Culture6. Lay EthnographyReferencesIndex

John Weeks is an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, Fontainebleau.